20 New York Foods the Empire State Is Known For

Pizza and beer
Pizza and beer | Photo by Meredith.

Nothing screams "welcome to New York" quite like a slice of hand-tossed, thin crust pizza. Or a plate of spicy Buffalo wings. Or a satisfying pastrami on rye. Come to think of it, New York has quite a few claims to food fame.

In this food tour of the Empire State, we'll explore 20 iconic New York foods — including two types of pizza, bagels and lox, black and white cookies, Thousand Island dressing, and chicken riggies — that state is known for (plus, we'll give you our best recipe inspiration along the way).

01 of 21

New York-Style Pizza

pizza with bell peppers and olives

You can't think of New York food without one thing coming to mind: pizza! The first pizzeria in the country, Lombardi's, was opened in Manhattan's Little Italy in 1905. It's been a Big Apple staple ever since.

New York-style pizza, a culinary contribution from Italian immigrants, is a variation of Neapolitan-style pizza. It's famous for its thin, hand-tossed crust that's topped with a thin layer of tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese. Since it's thin and pliable, New York pizza is often sold in large slices that can be easily folded.

Some people believe that the crust gets its signature texture and flavor from minerals found in NYC's tap water.

Try these recipes:

  • 10 Recipes for Wow-Worthy Pizza at Home
02 of 21

Grandma Pizza

Grandma Pizza
Shayna's Dad

Grandma pizza can be traced back to Italian-American grandmothers living in Long Island in the 1970s.

The Sicilian-style pie is has a thin crust and it's cooked in a square pan. It's cooked in a rectangular pan coated with olive oil, topped with mozzarella cheese, and finished with a layer of tomato sauce.

Since it was created by home cooks, Grandma pizza is traditionally made without a pizza oven. It's cut into square pieces for serving.

Learn more: What Is Grandma Pizza and Where Does It Get Its Name?

Try this recipe: Grandma Pizza

03 of 21

Buffalo Wings

Restaurant-Style Buffalo Chicken Wings
Kim's Cooking Now

There are several unverified origin stories for Buffalo wings, but most can be traced back to the Bellissimo family at Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York.

The chicken wings — which can be fried, baked, or grilled — are usually separated into drums and flats. The flapper (or pointer) is often discarded, but sometimes it's left attached to the flat.

Traditional Buffalo wings are tossed in a buttery, cayenne pepper-based sauce that ranges in spiciness from mild to hot. They're often served with celery and blue cheese or ranch dressing, as these additions provide a cooling effect.

Try these recipes:

04 of 21

New York-Style Cheesecake

closeup of a slice of cheesecake with a thin sour cream layer and glazed strawberry on top
chibi chef

There's nothing more rich, decadent, or intensely satisfying than a slice of New York cheesecake. What sets this style apart? In NYC, heavy cream or sour cream is added to the filling to create a denser and smoother texture.

New York-style cheesecake usually features a graham cracker crust and is baked in a springform pan.

For a bit of extra oomph, top the elegant dessert with fruit sauce, chocolate syrup, fresh fruit, or whipped cream.

Try these recipes:

05 of 21


close up of a homemade soft pretzel sprinkled with coarse salt
Smart Cookie

One of the many things that makes New York City great? The delicious street food on every corner.

Soft-baked pretzels made their way to New Amsterdam (a settlement on the Southern tip of Manhattan Island) via Dutch immigrants in the early 1800s. The salty snack has been a street food staple ever since.

It's easier than you think to make the knotted, savory snack at home. Top them with sea salt and serve with mustard for an authentic New York experience.

Try these recipes:

06 of 21

Lobster Rolls

Lobster Rolls
Katie Foley Linn

Lobster rolls, lobster meat served on a grilled hot dog-style bun, is a Northeastern staple. Lobster fishing is common on Long Island, so it makes perfect sense that the satisfying sandwiches are frequently found on Long Islander restaurant menus.

Save money by making authentic lobster rolls in the comfort of your own home! Pair the satisfying sandwiches with homemade potato chips or French fries.

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07 of 21

Manhattan Clam Chowder

a bowl of tomato-based clam chowder garnished with oyster crackers
Chef John

Manhattan clam chowder is tomato-based and contains no milk or cream, which sets it apart from its white New England counterpart.

Also unlike other versions, Manhattan clam chowder usually contains vegetables and starts with a mirepoix (an aromatic cooking base of carrots, celery, and onions).

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08 of 21

Black and White Cookies

Black and White Cookies
Black and White Cookies. AuntE

Black and white cookies have a soft, fluffy, cake-like base that's flat or slightly domed at the top. Descended from half moon cookies, another popular New York treat, black and whites are topped with royal icing or fondant in contrasting flavors (usually vanilla and chocolate).

Food historians trace the cookie's history to a Bavarian bakery in Manhattan in 1902. By the 1940s, it had become extremely popular in predominantly Jewish neighborhoods in NYC.

Try this recipe: Black and White Cookies

09 of 21

Pastrami On Rye

side view of a grilled and sliced reuben sandwich layered with pastrami, sauerkraut, and swiss cheese

Pastrami on rye, one of the most popular sandwiches of all time, was actually born from a favor for a friend: Lithuanian immigrant Sussman Volk allowed his friend, a Romanian immigrant, to use the icebox in his butcher shop in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. In exchange, the Romanian immigrant gave Volk his recipe for pastrami.

When Volk opened one of the first delicatessens in New York City in 1888, he served the meat on rye bread. The sandwich, sometimes called "New York's signature sandwich," remains a staple in Jewish delis today. It's usually topped with spicy brown mustard and served with a pickle on the side.

Try this recipe: Easy Homemade Pastrami

10 of 21

Chicken Riggies

Chicken Riggies

Chicken riggies — a hearty pasta dish of rigatoni and hot cherry peppers cooked in a creamy tomato sauce — is an Italian menu staple in the Utica-Rome region of upstate New York.

The exact origins of chicken riggies are unclear (and hotly disputed among restauranteurs in the area), but we know two things for certain: The spicy dish started popping up on menus in the late '70s or early '80s and it remains a local tradition today.

Try this recipe: Chicken Riggies

11 of 21

Bagels With Lox

bagel sandwich with lox, capers, dill, and cream cheese
Kim Cornelison

Separately, bagels and lox are not New York creations. Lox originated in 19th-century Scandinavia and bagels date back to 17th-century Poland. It was in New York, however, that people started pairing the two ingredients with cream cheese (or schmear).

Jewish bakeries developed the combination as a reaction to the popularity of eggs Benedict. The open-faced breakfast sandwich isn't kosher, as it contains pork and it mixes meat and dairy.

Bagels and lox was (and is!) a deliciously satisfying substitute.

Try these recipes:

12 of 21

Eggs Benedict

Beautiful Eggs Benedict
Beautiful Eggs Benedict | Photo by Meredith.

Though it sounds like a French dish, eggs Benedict (two halves of an English muffin topped with Canadian bacon, a poached egg, and Hollandaise) is a New York creation through and through.

According to legend, eggs Benedict was invented in the 1890s when retired Wall Street stock broker Lemuel Benedict wandered into the Waldorf Hotel in search of a hangover cure. He ordered "buttered toast, poached eggs, crisp bacon, and a hooker of Hollandaise." The chef liked the concoction so much, he put it on the menu. Delmonico's in Manhattan also claims ownership eggs Benedict — Charles Ranhofer, a Delmonico's chef, published a recipe for "Eggs à la Benedick" in 1894.

Get the recipes:

13 of 21

Lobster Newberg

Lobster Neweberg
Photo by Chef John.

Lobster Newberg (or Newburgh or Newburg) is comprised of lobster, butter, cognac, cream, sherry, eggs, and a hint of cayenne pepper. It's yet another legendary dish that was conceived at Delmonico's Restaurant in New York City.

There was allegedly a squabble about exactly who created the seafood-based recipe (originally called Lobster à la Wenberg), which caused Charles Delmonico to remove it from the menu. The dish was so popular, though, customers continued to request it. When it returned to the menu, the dish was called Lobster à la Newberg (an anagram of its original name).

Try this recipe: Lobster Newberg

14 of 21

General Tso's Chicken

Air Fryer General Tso's Chicken

You may be surprised to learn that General Tso's chicken (a deep-fried dish that's frequently found on Chinese menus in the U.S.) wasn't actually born in China. In fact, the sweet and spicy chicken was invented in the good ol' U.S. of A.

A chef named Peng Chang-kuei, who opened one of the first Hunanese restaurants in the country, actually created it in the '50s in New York City. He sweetened a traditional Hunanese dish up a bit for the American palate and named it after a respected Chinese statesman and military leader of the late Qing dynasty.

Fun fact: Henry Kissinger was a regular customer at Chang-kuei's restaurant, Uncle Peng's Hunan Yuan.

Try this recipe: General Tso's Chicken

15 of 21

Garbage Plate

Garbage Plate

Garbage Plate, which Health.com named "the fattiest food in the state of New York," is a delicious meal with a not-so-tasty title.

The dish originated at a restaurant called Nick Tahou Hots in Rochester. So what does it entail? A bed home fries, baked beans, and macaroni and cheese is topped with hot dogs, meat sauce, chopped onions, spicy mustard, ketchup, and hot sauce.

Try this recipe: Garbage Plate Sauce

16 of 21

Beef on Weck

Sliced roast beef on caraway rolls served au jus
Chef John

Beef on weck, a German-American sandwich with Buffalo roots, consists of thin-sliced rare roast beef on a kummelweck roll (which is like a kaiser roll topped with kosher salt and caraway seeds) served with au jus and horseradish.

The dish was invented sometime in mid-1800s New York. Legend has it that an upstate restauranteur promoted the salty sandwich in an attempt to encourage his customers to purchase more drinks.

Try this recipe: Chef John's Beef on Weck Sandwiches

17 of 21

Manhattan Cocktail

manhattan classic cocktail

The Manhattan cocktail's origins can be traced back to New York City during the Gilded Age. It's made with whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters. The concoction is stirred, strained into a cocktail glass, and garnished with a maraschino cherry and sometimes a lemon twist.

Though the Manhattan is traditionally made with American rye whiskey, Canadian whisky became a popular alternative during Prohibition.

Try this recipe: Manhattan Cocktail

18 of 21

Thousand Island Dressing

BaBa's Thousand Island Dressing

The Thousand Islands region, located along the St. Lawrence River on the Canada-U.S. border in upstate New York, is home to one of the most popular salad dressings in the country.

Thousand Island dressing is a mayonnaise-based concoction that can contain olive oil, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, cream, paprika, vinegar, chili sauce, ketchup, and/or hot sauce.

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19 of 21

Utica Greens

a skillet of greens and beans
Chef John

Utica greens — sautéed escarole, hot peppers, chicken stock, cheese, breadcrumbs, and prosciutto — first appeared on Chesterfield Restaurant's menu in the late '80s. The Utica-born appetizer enjoys widespread popularity, from coast to coast, these days.

The Italian-American dish is traditionally served before meals, but it can be made hearty enough to work as an entree.

Try this recipe: Utica Greens and Beans

20 of 21

Waldorf Salad

a salad of chopped apple, celery, and walnuts in a small blue bowl with a white interior
Chef John

You probably won't be surprised to learn that the Waldorf salad is named for the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in NYC. The fruit and nut dish (comprised of mayo-bound apples, grapes, walnuts, and celery served on a bed of lettuce) can be served as an appetizer or as a light meal.

The Waldorf salad is one of many famous dishes created by Chef Oscar Tschirky in the 1890s. The original recipe called for just fruit and mayonnaise, but the walnuts add welcome crunch.

Try these recipes:

21 of 21

More Inspiration

Coney Island Hot Dogs
Photo by Chef John.

Hungry for more? Explore our entire collections of New York Recipes, New York City Recipes, and Buffalo Recipes.

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